SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Hey, Jeff Samardzija! You're not helping me with my argument in favor of the designated hitter!
Neither are any of the other Cubs pitchers who have come to the plate so far this spring. Cubs pitchers are now 4-for-9 (.444) with two runs scored and Shark's home run, which, at the time, brought the Cubs back to within 3-2, after the Cubs had looked mostly impotent against D'backs starter Trevor Cahill, who struck out five in four innings. Samardzija's homer was a blast, too, heading deep onto the lawn just to the left of the 410-foot sign on the center field wall.
Shark gave another run to Arizona in the fifth, a home run by pinch-hitter Didi Gregorius (he had earlier allowed a homer to D'backs center fielder Adam Eaton), and he left having given up four hits and four runs in 4⅔ innings. Yet, I still thought he had a good outing. His fastball seemed crisp, he worked quickly, and didn't go overboard on his pitch count. He left in a tie game, and the Cubs then scored five runs off Arizona prospect David Holmberg and held on for a 7-5 win over the Diamondbacks, their second consecutive victory.
Other good things that happened for the Cubs on a sunny afternoon in front of a sellout (12,436) crowd at Talking Stick (likely because it's spring-break week in Scottsdale; there were a ton of families on a very crowded lawn):
- A home run for Welington Castillo with Luis Valbuena on base; the Cubs scored a pair of runs in that inning, the sixth, after the first two hitters struck out.
- Good outings for Casey Coleman, Hector Rondon and Rafael Dolis. Only one of those pitchers is likely to make the team. Rondon had another good outing, getting an easy groundout and a strikeout sandwiched around a single by Mark Teahen. He faced three major-league hitters (Teahen, Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock). As I wrote after the previous Rondon outing I saw, he's clearly got much more talent than, say, Lendy Castillo. Rondon just might be a keeper.
- A two-hit day from David DeJesus, both hard-hit line drives. He looks good this spring. He also threw out Goldschmidt trying to stretch a single into a double.
- Three hits from Steve Clevenger, who played a good first base... except for the easy throw he dropped in the ninth inning that should have ended the game. A throwing error was given to reliever Blake Parker for a bad throw, but if Clevenger is going to make the team as a backup first baseman/third baseman/catcher/whatever, he needs to make plays like that. Darwin Barney booted a ball in the seventh inning that probably should have been called an error, too, but charitably, the scorer gave Wil Nieves a hit on the play.
As bad as the Cubs' offense has looked this spring, it's looked quite a bit better the last two days, and that's without Anthony Rizzo, who won't be back for at least another week as he plays in the WBC, and Starlin Castro, who's expected back Wednesday in Mesa when the Cubs take on the Rockies.
I spent the afternoon on the lawn at Talking Stick with Jim from our SB Nation D'backs site AZ Snakepit; he was joined by Mrs. SnakePit. Nice to visit with a fellow SB Nation writer and talk baseball; one name we discussed was Randall Delgado, the almost-Cub from last summer, who is in the mix for a rotation slot with Arizona. He also seems fine with the other pieces the D'backs acquired in the Justin Upton deal.
And with that, the Cubs, and I, will take a break from spring training. The team has the day off Tuesday, but we'll have threads tomorrow. Cub Tracks will be here in the morning as usual, and we'll have a game thread in the afternoon for the Italy/Dominican Republic WBC game, which starts at noon CT. Josh will have a recap of that game and another game thread for the Puerto Rico/USA game at 7 p.m. CT.